Buyers are spoiled for choice in today’s full-size, half-ton pickup market, with Ford, Chevrolet/GMC, and Ram covering nearly all of the segment’s sales, while Nissan and Toyota left to fight over the scraps. Yet despite attracting only one-fourth as many buyers as third-place Ram, it’s not for a lack of trying. The Toyota Tundra, for example, offers almost everything you’ll find on competitive trucks in the meaty part of the market at competitive prices.
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2018 Toyota Tundra Overview
What's New for 2018
A new milder “TRD [Toyota Racing Development] Sport” trim level replaces the hardcore off-road TRD Pro, swapping out the latter’s desert-runner/rock-crawler gear for its on-pavement-performance equivalent and improved optics inside and out. Other trims get minor tweaks including improved headlight tech, and Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of electronic driver assistance features and an improved interior display screen are now standard across the board. The two-door Regular Cab body style has been eliminated.
Choosing Your Toyota Tundra
Thanks to its Regular Cab being consigned to the hereafter, the Tundra’s list of body style and bed length combinations has been simplified, with the Double Cab – two full doors in front and two three-quarter doors in back – available with a 6.5-foot Standard Bed or an 8.1-foot Long Bed while the Crew Max – four full doors – sports only the 5.5-foot Short Bed.
On paper, Toyota lists three available V8 engines in the Tundra, but in reality, it’s two, with nearly every Tundra coming with a 5.7-liter V8 producing 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque in either standard or Flex Fuel (E85-capable) form and a 4.6-liter 32-valve DOHC V8 with 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque. This engine is only available on that can only available on three specific bottom-shelf configurations for customers looking for more efficiency (15 city/19 highway versus the 5.7's 13 city/18 highway best) and a $1,270 savings over the optional 5.7-liter.
Similarly, except for the very specific case of the SR Double Cab Long Bed with the 5.7-liter engine, supplementing your rear-wheel drive Tundra with Toyota’s 4WDemand part-time 4WD with electronically-controlled transfer case and automatic limited-slip differential is $3,050. All Tundras are equipped with six-speed automatic transmissions.
Trim-wise the Tundra comes in six “grades”, with base MSRPs ranging from $32,140 to $51,425 (including $1,295 destination, which is higher in AR, MS, OK, and TX):
As with all pickups, the Tundra exhibits a split personality. One can either go the “work truck” route with the SR5 and below and get access to all the body and bed configurations at the expense of top-shelf creature-comforts, or make the $6,285 leap up into the Limited and into the realm of a “Boss’ truck” and all the goodies that entails. So, if you need a truck, consider a fully-loaded SR5 before anything else because $6,300 is a lot to spend just for the Limited’s frosting.
2018 Toyota Tundra Review
Twelve years into its current model cycle and refreshed for a second time just this year, changes to the 2018 Toyota Tundra include dropping the regular cab and adding a new front end as well as a host of standard active safety features. However, a cheap-looking interior, average safety scores, and a pair of thirsty V8 engines keep the Tundra from being a top contender in the full-size pickup class.
Pricing begins at $32,715 for a rear-wheel-drive base Tundra SR Double Cab model and can top $54,000 for a four-wheel-drive CrewMax Cab 1794 model with the optional TRD Off-Road Package.
As with most full-size pickups, Tundra buyers face a veritable smorgasbord of choices: six trim levels, three bed lengths, two body styles, rear- or all-wheel-drive, and two V8 engines – both mated to a six-speed automatic. This year, in addition to a new grille and headlights, Toyota has added a number of standard advanced safety features, including forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.
We'd opt for the Limited because it offers easier-to-clean leather seats (heated and powered up front), brighter and more efficient LED headlights and taillights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 20-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift lever, in-vehicle infotainment apps, and satellite radio. Here's how we'd build it:
- Model: 2018 Toyota Tundra Limited CrewMax
- Engine: 5.7-liter V8
- Output: 381 hp / 401 lb-ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 13 City / 17 Hwy
- Options:Limited Premium Package with options ($1,920, front and rear park assist sonar, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, anti-theft system with alarm, engine immobilizer, premium audio system, navigation, 18-inch TRD Off-Road Package alloy wheels with black accents and Michelin LTX A/T2 P275/65R18 tires, fuel tank skid plate, engine skid plate, TRD off-road floor mats, Bed Side TRD Off-Road Decal, trail-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, front tow hooks), Bed Mat ($139)
- Base Price: $46,895 (including the $1,395 destination fee)
- Best Value Price: $48,954
The Tundra's handling is composed and confidant, and does a nice job of isolating even the largest road imperfections in around-town driving. At freeway speeds, the story is pretty much the same: a feeling of security and unaffected by crosswinds, grooved pavement, or pavement irregularities. The suspension has a great deal of travel and does a nice job of absorbing even larger potholes. We should also point out that interior noise levels are one of the high points of the Tundra with sound levels comparable to a number of luxury sedans we've driven.
The 5.7-liter V8, paired to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, offers outstanding acceleration accompanied by a muscle-car-like soundtrack. For those wishing to venture off the beaten path, the TRD Off-Road Package (not to be confused with the hell-bent-for-leather TRD Pro model) option includes special 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin LTX A/T2 tires, trail-tuned Bilstein shocks, skid plates for the engine and fuel tank, front tow hooks, and heavy-duty TRD rubber floor mats, along with exterior bed-side decals.
At the same time, steering is light but numb, no diesel engine is offered, and, although the Tundra comes with advanced active safety features, its crash-test results are average, at best.
Finally, fuel economy with any of the engine/drivetrain combinations is poor. Our Limited tester, equipped with the 5.7-liter V8, came with an EPA-estimated 13 miles per gallon in the city, 17 mpg on the highway, and 14 combined. We only managed a vehicle-measured 11 mpg in suburban-heavy driving.
The Tundra features the requisite butched-up look, with a big, vertical grille that's laden with chrome and takes up nearly the entire front fascia. On Limited models, the square-ish headlight housings contain LED headlights outlined with LED running lights. The front bumper, fared into the fascia, is blacked out below the grille on Limited models, with the rest of it chromed, as well, as it wraps around the body. The rest of the exterior is standard fare for pickups, although the "TUNDRA" name is hot-stamped into the lower right corner of the tailgate.
That exterior is wrapped around a cockpit with logically-arranged controls that are simple, intuitive, and within easy reach of the driver. The front seats that are nicely shaped with plenty of support and suitable for long trips. Most models offer ample room for five good-sized adults, with double cab models sporting a front bench (yes, this configuration is still available) that makes it capable of seating six.
The view out both the front and sides is excellent. The view out the back is also decent, but the large B-pillar somewhat hinders the driver's sightline out the rear three-quarters.
On the downside, despite fine graining and close tolerances, the extensive use of silver plastic trim gives the interior a decidedly low-rent look and feel, while adults will find rear seat room tight on double cab models.
The Best and Worst Things
Toyota has equipped the Tundra with a best-in-class array of standard active safety technologies on all trim levels.
Compared to its competitors in the full-size pickup class, the Tundra's interior looks and feels cheap.
Right For? Wrong For?
Despite a marginal crash score on the driver's side small overlap test, safety-conscious buyers will appreciate the Tundra's extensive standard list of advanced active safety features.
With EPA estimates that range from 13/17/14 mpg (city/highway/combined) for models with the 5.7-liter V8 and four-wheel drive to 15/19/16 mpg for those with the 4.6-liter V8 and rear-wheel drive, eco-conscious buyers need not apply.
The Bottom Line
Although updated styling and advanced safety tech make the 2018 Toyota Tundra more appealing, a chintzy-looking interior and poor fuel economy continue to make it an also-ran in the full-size pickup class.
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